Forget beards. Forget wolverines. Don’t worry about a capella, triple doubles or kiwis. The heroes of Game 2 of Houston’s first round series against the Thunder were the Bomber Bros: Lou Williams and Eric Gordon.
Gordon and Williams exploded for 43 combined points on 16/28 shooting. Gordon’s 22 and Williams’ 21 off the bench ignited the flame the Rockets needed to come back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to win, 115-111.
Both guards sunk three treys, which accounted for over half of the Rockets’ three-point makes (11). Ideally, the team would have made more, but the fellas in red will take the outbreak from their prolific bench scorers.
Williams started off the game hot, providing instant offense in the first quarter when the team needed it most. With the Rockets struggling to keep up with a relaxed Westbrook-led Thunder team, “Sweet Lou” answered the call. In just four first quarter minutes, he went 3/3 from the field for 8 points, including a tough buzzer-beater in Andre Roberson’s face.
“Lou…it could have been Eric, but that time it was Lou, kept us in striking distance,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Williams did what he does best: take and make tough shots. He’s a classic “No no no no…yes!” player when it comes to his shot selection. Williams has struggled in his playoff career because he relies on getting to the line on cheap fouls, like a less versatile James Harden. Referees in the playoffs usually don’t bail players out with calls, and Williams only got to the line once; he was just hitting his shots, which made all the difference.
Step backs, floaters, hanging bank shots — Williams got them all to fall in his 21 reserve minutes.
Gordon picked it up in crunch time, pouring in 10 points in the fourth quarter. He led the bench unit to play the Thunder’s starters evenly for the first five minutes of the fourth while Harden rested. Those five minutes, which the Rockets won by two points, were crucial to wearing out OKC and recharging Harden’s batteries for the final winning push.
Not only did Gordon drop 22, he played excellent defense. When asked to stay in front of Westbrook, Gordon has defended him almost as well as Patrick Beverley. Trevor Ariza came in for the stretch run to provide the final lockdown on the now-presumptive MVP.
Williams’ 14 first half points and Gordon’s steadying influence throughout completely changed the outcome of Game 2.
In Game 1, the Bomber Bros did not give the Rockets much of anything, combining for 19 points on 6/19 shooting. 19 points on 19 shots is not enough production from the two best bench scorers in the league, but the Rockets still handled the Thunder by 31.
The bench backcourt is not the be-all, end-all for Houston, but when they both contribute, the Rockets’ ceiling becomes significantly higher.
“We have a lot of weapons, and basically one of those weapons is going to go off — hopefully a couple of them.” D’Antoni said. “When that happens, we’re pretty hard to beat.”